Business-Savvy Artists - "Artrepreneurs" - Are Flocking to Downtown Arlington

There are at least two kinds of people who often fearlessly ask, “Why not?”

Artists and entrepreneurs.

Lucky for us that the City and Downtown Arlington have been calibrating the Downtown Master Plan to attract artists and entrepreneurs. Lately, the culinarians among them have been receiving well-deserved recognition for their gastronomic creativity and highly developed niche-awareness.

There’s another kind of entrepreneur that’s also having a powerful impact on Downtown’s cool factor without the (dis)advantages of working within the same four walls every day. Let’s call them “pop-up artrepreneurs.”

In addition to fearlessness, pop-up artrepreneurs share certain skills and qualities. They can make beautiful things with their hands and can engage warmly with others. They’ve also come to believe that as working artists, all or part of their business can’t be static. It needs the visibility of mobility, community and collaboration.

Three examples of artrepreneurial businesses that regularly “pop-up” in Downtown Arlington are Lindsay’s Art Cart, Steele Magnolia Designs, and Painting With Influence.

From Inspiration to Launch

Lindsay Whittenberg, founder and owner of Lindsay’s Art Cart, enjoyed an eight-year career as an elementary school art teacher for Arlington ISD before having even an inkling of starting her own business.

“After the birth of my daughter,” said Lindsay, “I continued to teach for a year, but I was feeling pulled in too many directions and my desire was to be home with my baby. But after life calmed down a little, I found myself missing the creative process and sharing it with others.”

“If I'm being honest,” said Lindsay, “we also missed having a second income.”

She began by dabbling in art lessons for kids around her dining room table. Eventually, parents began asking if Lindsay could come to their homes for art parties, and the idea of mobile workshops germinated. Now, just a couple of years later, Lindsay’s Art Cart offers a variety of workshops, classes and kid’s summer camps featuring a mix of acrylic and watercolor painting, metal stamping, leather stamping, screen printing, hand lettering, and more.

Beadwork Magazine’s 2018 Designer of the Year Shanna Steele of Steele Magnolia Design worked as a jewelry designer and instructor for online retailer Auntie’s Beads for well over a decade before she had the idea to start her own business and “go mobile.” Her hand-stitched creations combine Japanese seed beads, Czech glass beads, gemstones, and crystals to create wearable works of art. In 2016, after taking a four-year break from beadwork, she was recruited by RAW to participate in an art show in Dallas.

“The thought of showing and selling my work myself had never occurred to me, but I found that I really enjoyed it,” Shanna said. “From that point on, I began doing pop-up markets and started submitting my work to magazines again, and it slowly became my full-time job. At almost every show I did, I had people ask about classes, so I started teaching again. To date, I’ve taught over a dozen classes – everything from earring construction to beaded bracelets to more complicated woven designs.”

A strictly mobile business model isn’t the only potentially successful one for entrepreneurial-minded artists. Others begin with a storefront or studio then grow beyond their physical space.

Much like Amy and James Evans, who offer wood sign-making classes from Board & Brush Creative Studio franchise in Downtown’s Urban Union, Jaime Marumusa and her partners launched Painting With Influence out of a commercial space in Carrollton, TX.

“For many years, we (partners Jaime, Helen, Amy and Albert) were all professionals in various industries,” said Jaime. “In December 2016, we saw an opportunity to do something different, to take our love of art and turn it into a business – what we call an interactive art studio -- that teaches people a craft in an entertainment setting. We offer acrylic painting, alcohol ink, water marbling, leathercraft, fused glass, pottery, and printmaking. We like to get our hands into a little bit of everything.”

It wasn’t long before the partners again began thinking outside the box. “We like teaching and sharing our crafts with people, and we also like making ends meet,” said Jaime. “We realized there was opportunity beyond the walls of our studio to offer ‘mobile events’ in different types of settings like schools, homes, offices and even city-wide events.”

No Place Like Downtown Arlington

Just as its authentic vibe and is attracting a whirlwind of brick and mortar investment, Downtown Arlington has become a hot spot both for pop-up artrepreneurs.

“People who take my classes come from all over the metroplex, so Arlington’s central location made sense,” said Shanna. “As I was deciding where to hold classes, I found a link an article about the revitalization of Downtown Arlington. Legal Draft Beer Co. and Urban Alchemy Coffee + Wine Bar were both mentioned, so I contacted both and met with Kelley at Legal Draft and Tony at Urban Alchemy on the same day. Both were so welcoming and the spaces are so amazing. Most of the classes I’ve taught have sold out, and I’ve had quite a few people who’ve taken every class I’ve taught.”

“Legal Draft has really enjoyed hosting different pop-up styled events -- like art classes, shows, exhibitions and gatherings -- that bring all kinds of people of different ages and backgrounds together,” said Kelley Vander Veen, Director of Hoppiness for Legal Draft. “We have really enjoyed giving the community a place to have new experiences with family and friends. I think the pop-up events bring new, exciting things to Downtown Arlington and it really gives everyone a chance to find something that they love.”

“Partnering with artists to host pop-up events aligns perfectly with our mission to build community and strengthen relationships,” said Tony Rutigliano, owner of Urban Alchemy. “It’s good for Urban Alchemy because it’s great for the community.”

“Having lived in Arlington most of my life,” Lindsay said, “I’m truly invested in bringing more art opportunities to our community. I’ve watched as Downtown has grown exponentially, so it’s been a perfect fit thanks to the variety of small businesses and their willingness to let me set up shop in their spaces. It’s exciting to offer classes in the part of town full of other entrepreneurs and creatives!”

Lauren Brewer, co-owner of Union Worx Coworking, said "We designed Union Worx to host all kinds of events, but those that incorporate art are especially exciting to us. They attract the type of clientele we serve, and it's great exposure for us."

“These days, people are searching for more than the typical consumer activities,” said Jaime. “They’re looking for unique experiences they can share with family and friends. We see Downtown Arlington becoming a place like that, and we’re proud to help provide some of these experiences.”

Gathering of Friends

In addition to talent, a big vehicle, and an aversion to a 9-to-5 job, all of these artrepreneurs have something else in common: a knack for building conviviality.

“When I was much younger,” Lindsay said, “I took a quiz to help me figure out my spiritual gifts, and I ranked highest in hospitality. What I’ve come to realize is that although it may appear that I’m in the art classes business – and I am – I’m REALLY in the hospitality business. I love creating an environment for people to learn and tap into their creative side, sometimes for the first time in years, within the safe and loving confines of my community. I constantly try new things myself, and I love offering classes that I would choose to attend myself if I were a guest. Connecting with people and being creative are my passion, so teaching classes is the perfect fit for me.”

“Not only have we grown our business by offering unique crafts that others do not,” said Jaime, “people also appreciate our good service. We enjoy helping people step outside of their comfort zone and try something they might not on their own. Whichever craft and whatever location, we accommodate our customers wishes and provide a great and valuable experience.”

“I often say that everyone is creative and that some people just haven’t yet found their outlet,” said Shanna. “I love to see people learn and make something with a skill I have taught them. And then, every once in a while, someone is inspired to take it to the next level and start playing with their own design techniques and color palettes. I love sparking that kind of creative fire in people.”

Popping Up All Over

Visit these artrepreneur’s websites for more information about their studio practices, teaching schedule, and availability for private events.

We’re adding a shout out to another creative champion of pop-up events, Arlington Yoga Center, which features yoga classes in the company of goats, puppies and cats. But that’s another story.

Know of other artists who offer pop-up classes in Downtown Arlington? Let us know in the comment section.

Deep in the Art 

Stay up to date on all of the pop-up events in Downtown, plus all the arts and cultural exhibitions and performances throughout the Arlington Cultural District. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, tag us with @DTArlington and click here to subscribe to Downtown Arlington’s weekly e-newsletter.

About Downtown Arlington

Designated by the State of Texas as the Arlington Cultural District, Downtown Arlington blends a unique mix of activities, sights, tastes and sounds that attract visitors and locals alike. Within its less than a two-mile radius, Downtown is home to a top tier public research university, prolific fine and performing artists and arts institutions, live entertainment, exciting NCAA and professional athletics, one-of-a-kind dining and retail, and a supportive business climate.

Story by Amy J. Schultz. Photo from the Lindsay's Art Cart Facebook page.